Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rapid evolution aids spread of exotic plant species

Date:
May 23, 2014
Source:
KU Leuven
Summary:
The first genetic evidence that rapid evolution can help non-native plant species spread in new environments has been presented by a team of biologists. Using samples of centuries-old herbaria and DNA analysis, the researchers reconstructed the genetic adaptations undergone by the Pyrenean rocket prior to its rapid spread in Belgium.

The Pyrenean rocket (pictured) is a harmless plant, but some exotics can become a real plague even after a period of unproblematic presence in a non-native environment.
Credit: © Katrien Vandepitte

A team of Belgian biologists led by researchers at KU Leuven has provided the first genetic evidence that rapid evolution can help non-native plant species spread in new environments. Using samples of centuries-old herbaria and DNA analysis, the researchers reconstructed the genetic adaptations undergone by the Pyrenean rocket prior to its rapid spread in Belgium.

The Pyrenean rocket (Sisymbrium austriacum subsp. Chrysanthum) is a plant that grows in the mountains of southern Europe and is particularly prevalent in the Pyrenees. The species was first reported in Belgium -- 1,200 kilometres north of its native range -- in the first half of the 19th century. Seeds from the plant were most likely introduced alongside the wool industry in and around Verviers. The Pyrenean rocket took root on the banks of the River Vesdre in Verviers and later spread across the Meuse basin towards the Netherlands.

The colonization history of the Pyrenean rocket is well documented, explains postdoctoral researcher and corresponding author Katrien Vandepitte (Plant Conservation and Population Biology Research Group): "We found dried specimens of the Pyrenean rocket in herbaria from the 19th and 20th centuries and were able to isolate DNA from these samples. We then compared this DNA with the genetic profile of contemporary samples from Belgium and the Pyrenees. This gave us a unique opportunity to reconstruct when and how an exotic plant species genetically adapted to a new environment."

20 generations

"When we looked at the genetic evolution of the Pyrenean rocket, we found the greatest divergences in a set of genes that regulate flowering time, an important plant fitness trait. When we compared current individuals taken from our region and the Pyrenees, both grown under Belgian conditions, the Belgian variant bloomed later."

"Our DNA analysis shows that the Belgian variant genetically adapted quite rapidly -- in about 20 generations. This very likely helped the plant to survive and spread here."

"Our findings are important because until now evidence supporting the hypothesis that exotic plants can spread after a period of rapid genetic adaptation has been very scant," says Dr. Vandepitte.

The results also suggest that we should be wary of 'latent' non-native plant species. "These plants can be present in small numbers for years before spreading as a result of genetic adaptation. The Pyrenean rocket is a harmless plant, but some exotics can become a real plague. And this can occur even after a period of unproblematic presence in a non-native environment."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by KU Leuven. The original article was written by Ilse Frederickx. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Katrien Vandepitte, Tim de Meyer, Kenny Helsen, Kasper van Acker, Isabel Roldαn-Ruiz, Joachim Mergeay, Olivier Honnay. Rapid genetic adaptation precedes the spread of an exotic plant species. Molecular Ecology, 2014; 23 (9): 2157 DOI: 10.1111/mec.12683

Cite This Page:

KU Leuven. "Rapid evolution aids spread of exotic plant species." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140523094259.htm>.
KU Leuven. (2014, May 23). Rapid evolution aids spread of exotic plant species. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140523094259.htm
KU Leuven. "Rapid evolution aids spread of exotic plant species." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140523094259.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) — Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) — Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) — At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

AP (July 30, 2014) — River otters were hitting the water slides to beat the summer heatwave on Wednesday at Ichikawa City's Zoological and Botanical Garden. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins